This past week I’ve been on the road.

Lansing is Michigan’s capitol.  Wednesday I stopped by for a visit with Captain Alex Norton who will be bringing music to the Mission and Purpose Conference in Grand Rapids the end of this month.  Alex is a great musician and he serves with his wife Aimee leading the Lansing South Corps.

Alex told how an awkward situation was created years ago when the South Corps with its all-white congregation was moved from its run down building into a better one in an all African-American neighborhood.  The corps’ service is needed in the neighborhood but the congregation has struggled.  It has yet to develop significant engagement with the people living where it’s located.

To further compound challenges there’s no money to hire staff which means that other than a janitor the Nortons must lead and do all Army work on the south side of Lansing, not an easy feat especially with two small children.  But there is a well kept community garden in front of their building, a weekly free meal, and a food pantry where people can choose from the shelves. 

Alex says there is a great opportunity here for young adults who want to live and serve in this urban setting.  Incarnational.  Alex and Aimee are gifted disciplers of young adults.  If you are interested, contact Captain Norton at alex_norton@usc.salvationarmy.org.  He wants to talk to you.

Friday morning I drove down Harding Street in Detroit.  Detroit Harding Corps is on the east side of the city.  Take the French Street exit from I-94 and drive south about a mile.  More terrible than ever.  Abandoned and burnt houses, crumbling.  No longer alarming, it’s overwhelming. 

I met with Captains Javier and Kelsie Moreno to discuss placement of a City Vision College intern.  It will be the third placed at Salvation Army corps in urban settings (Kansas City and St Louis).  The Morenos need the help and they can provide an ideal training experience for urban ministry.  Contact Captain Jav at javier_moreno@usc.salvationarmy.org

The Morenos’ are also in initial talks with headquarters about replacing their old worn building.  But do they stay in the neighborhood?  Or go to another location on the east side of Detroit? 

Harding Corps is the only Salvation Army presence in the east half of Detroit.  If they move, and I think that’s what should be done, where?  No one in or out of Detroit seems to know what is going to happen in the years ahead.  It is a city in alarming decline.  Population loss and crumbling infrastructure give Detroit the air of desertion and disaster.  The Salvation Army must replace this facility but do so strategically.

In the afternoon I headed west on I-96 for Chicago.  I couldn’t resist exiting at Joy Road/Livernois on Detroit’s west side.  Gail and I served six years at Temple Corps.  I wanted to take a look.

Off the freeway, I turned onto Grand River and then Dundee.  There on the corner was the 1928 building we worked out of for most of our years in Detroit.  I felt sick at what I saw.

Every window in the three story brick building.  Smashed.  It is now abandoned.  The businessman who bought it from the Army has left it and his failed dreams.  Weeds growing from cracks in the sidewalk.  Old curtains blowing in the wind.  Through the windows you can see other damage.  Desecration.  Only last year it was still in use.  Now it has fallen to the same terminal disease of tens of thousands of Detroit’s buildings.

During the late 1920s the Salvation Army built dozens of buildings like ours all in the same general design.  We called them MacIntyre buildings in honor of the vision and determination of Commissioner William MacIntyre, the Army’s leader in the Midwest as America entered the Great Depression. 

While we were there the building wasn’t an easy place to work.  We were not fond of it.  But to now see it this way, piteous.

I turned around and headed west on Grand River.  Rain and chilly.  I was feeling cold.

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